John Obi Mikel has revealed that he was informed about his father's kidnapping just hours before the game vs Argentina. He was told to pay a ransom, remain silent and also threatened that his father would be killed if he reported anything.
A family member called Mikel and passed the shocking news when he on the team bus, travelling to the stadium last Tuesday. The former Chelsea star told The Guardian that he could not tell anyone in the Nigerian Football Federation because he did not want to distract his teammates and officials before the game.
“I played while my father was in the hands of bandits. I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kick-off to tell me what had happened,” said Mikel.
“I was emotionally distraught, and I had to make the decision about whether I was mentally ready to play. I was confused. I did not know what to do but, in the end, I knew that I could not let 180 million Nigerians down. I had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first. I could not even inform the coaches or NFF staff, and only a very tight circle of my friends knew,” added the Nigerian captain.
Michael Obi Pa was kidnapped in south-east Nigeria when he was going to attend a funeral. The incident took place along the Makurdi-Enugu expressway as per reports.
The Nigerian police were able to rescue Mikel's father, but he was tortured during a week-long ordeal. Mikel has revealed that his father is currently receiving emergency treatment in hospital.
Despite all this happening, Mikel played 90 minutes against Argentina but was unable to help his team secure a place in the Round of 16. They lost 2-1 because of a late Marcos Rojo goal – without which they would have made it to the next round and faced France.
Continuing to talk about his father's kidnapping, Mikel said, “I was told that they would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody. I also did not want to discuss it with the coach [Gernot Rohr] because I did not want my issue to become a distraction to him or the rest of the team on the day of such an important game. As much as I wanted to discuss it with the coach, I could not.”
“Thankfully, my father was safely released on Monday afternoon. I thank the police authorities for their rescue efforts and the support I’ve received from friends and family members. Unfortunately, my dad is now in hospital receiving emergency treatment as a result of the torture he received during his capture,” added the midfielder.
This is the second time that Mikel's father was kidnapped, with the first one being in August 2011.Published 03 Jul 2018, 18:08 IST